I have a forty-three-year-old correction to make in a story I published. Also, an explanation/excuse. I’m lazy like that.
8th grade made me lazy. Academically, that is. It came in a time in an older boy’s life when habits were forming. In my school life, I was always ahead of the curve, possibly because my love of reading. Growing I read EVERYTHING! I even wrote some “books” of my own when I was 5 or 6. Because of this, or maybe in spite of this, I skipped kindergarten, always at the head of my classes, until the 7th grade took its toll.
In 7th grade, they started sifting the more gifted from the herd. We were corralled into a classroom and were told because of our high grades and achievement level, coupled with our self-starting nature, we were being required to take a foreign language. I chose French for reasons I can’t explain to this day.
We were also split into “divisions” going from the top students on down. We had A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, & j. Why there was no ‘I’ was baffling. Anyway, the top three divisions were foreign language bound. While not the brightest from our town’s three elementary schools, when I got to junior high, I was assigned division B.
J’ai détesté le Français ! Il détestait ! J’ai méprisé il vers le bas pour ma moelle osseuse.
Surprisingly, I only had to look up two words in the translation above. So, I remember some things. I never had a reason to hate French, but the teacher knew. At the end of the year, I was asked if I wanted to get bounced to a lower division, so I wouldn’t have to take a foreign language. I eagerly agreed.
Trouble was, all the lower divisions were crowded and I alighted in Division G. The material that the teacher covered I learned in 5th grade. I NEVER read a textbook all year, passed tests with flying colors, spent almost the entire year in the school library pleasure reading and received “A’s” all year. Even the teacher felt bad because the class was just easy for a student of my ‘caliber.’
You might see where this headed. 8th grade made me lazy. It didn’t help that my family moved that summer so I had a new school for 9th grade. My poor study habits developed the previous year continued into my Freshman high school year. Without doing much work I could still achieve B minuses. My parents were enduring their own difficulties, so they left me alone to be an underachiever.
I remember one instance Sophomore year. I had my homeroom teacher for biology later in the day. One day she was writing assignments on the board and a reminder a chapter report was due that day. Yep, I didn’t write one up, because you know, laziness. In my two study halls I had, I READ the chapter and wrote a half-assed page and a half paper. When the teacher graded the papers, I got a B+, my lab partner, who wrote a ten-page paper complete with pictures, graphs, annotations, etc and got an A-. He was so mad when he saw my half-assed attempt, he stood up, screamed, threw my paper at a lit Bunsen burner and got us both suspended for a day. The teacher thought we were trying to burn down the school and she panicked.
Skip forward to Junior year. I took tons of English electives, even skipping a required PE class to indulge in a half year of Music Lyric writing (it was music class- hey- these were the 1970s.) and a half year of English Composition. In EC, my stories were weird stuff only a 15-year-old could dream up, drawing from an imagination from reading hundreds of weird books. But I got noticed! One day, while minding my own business, on my way to the library (yeah, it’s a sickness) both advisors of the school literary magazine cornered me. One was my current EC teacher, and the other was my Freshman English teacher. I think there were girls from the magazine in my vision too, but the terror of being shoved into a room with all these authority figures makes the memory a little fuzzy. They offered me a coveted spot as a regular contributor to the paper. I turned them down cold- it was freezing in that library! But they wouldn’t take “NO” for an answer, so I got my first unpaid writing gig.
Remember my laziness? The main reason why I didn’t want to this gig was I thought my life was pretty full. Between listening to records, reading all sorts of books, magazines and pamphlets, building model cars, tossing around a football with my brother, I considered my life full and complete. I worked during the summers, so I considered school time to be my “vacation.”
Alas. My academic laziness proved to be my downfall. In my haste to do nothing, I used to wait until the night before my writing assignment was due to throw my head back and dream up something for the lit mag. Recently I found a copy of the magazine that was forwarded to me. A glaring mistake was made in my haste. I attributed the quote “Give me liberty. Or give me death” to Nathan Hale. So, whoever typed up the mimeo stencil for this, I thank you for never correcting my mistake to the rightful owner of the quote, Patrick Henry. This gut wrenching mistake, due to my laziness has been out there for 43 years, and I only noticed it recently. I was cleaning, found it and thought it would be cute to blog the story. But in transcribing the old mimeo’d story I found out my embarrassing mistake.
Oh yeah- that was the whole purpose of this blog, to show my mistakes, my laziness and share a glimpse into the mind of a glimpse into the mind of a 15-year-old. Without further ado: 15-year-old. Without further ado:
The Modern Ride of Paul Revere
In a middle-class neighborhood, the serenity of a late summer’s night is broken by a scream. Nick Globorhood jumped out of bed. He glanced over to where his wife Grace should have been, but she was gone! Nick heard someone running down the street and as he scrambled over to the open window, he heard his wife shouting Maybe it was a cruel joke, thought Nick.
Nick threw on his clothes and ran down the stairs and out into the hot summer night. Following her screams, Nick followed her to the Norman’s house. There she was, sitting under an oak tree. As he approached her, he asked her what the matter was and she replied, “The British are coming. Grab your musket and prepare to fight.” Nick thought that she must be off her rocker and finally after some wrestling, got her home. At home Nick called the doctor who muttered his classic line, “take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Big deal, Nick thought, as he hung up the phone.
From that night on, Nick’s wife would go out and scream, “The British are coming!” In a few days Nick got a little tired of this and called in a psychiatrist. After several sessions, (and almost sending Nick to the poorhouse) the good doctor told them that Grace was a reincarnation of Paul Revere! Nick was floored. But Grace came through with an idea that would make millions for them. She told Nick that every night when she would change into Paul Revere, if Nick would detain him in the den and ask him questions about his life, they would compile them into a book entitled An Autobiography of Paul Revere as Told to Nick Globorhood. They would make millions, thought Nick. Imagine that! A direct account of Paul Revere’s life.
This went on for two months and the material was getting good. They were almost through with it, with two chapters left to go, when Paul didn’t come anymore. They tried, but he didn’t come. They tried everything and even went to Paul Revere’s house, trying to spark memories, but he didn’t come. As a last resort, Nick sent Grace to a hypnotist and they tried age regression, but apparently Grace was the second person to be reincarnated by Paul Revere, because all they could get was a coal miner from the 1800’s. So after this last attempt, they gave up.
Soon it was Christmas. The notes for the book were sitting in a pile of dust on the bookcase in the den. Paul hadn’t been around in four months. On this peaceful Christmas Eve, Nick and Grace got into bed after tucking the children in. In the middle of the night Nick thought he heard a noise, got up, and noticed Grace wasn’t in bed. He went downstairs and found Grace lying under the Christmas tree, out cold, with a note in her hand. In her other hand was a whiskey bottle which was strange, Nick thought, because Grace didn’t drink. Nick picked up the note which read:
Merry Christmas, Nick. Tell Grace Merry Christmas too. I’m sorry I couldn’t come around to help you finish your book, but I’ve been busy lately. Here it is finished in every detail, and I hope this is what you’re looking for.
Nick took what Paul had written and started right away that minute compiling and editing it. Nick and Grace worked nonstop until New Year’s Day. On the day after New Year’s, Nick brought it to a publisher, who absolutely loved it. He thought it would be cute to give a history of the book’s writing and include Paul’s note in it.
Soon the book was published, and it sold like mad. Everyone wanted one from history buffs to housewives to school children. The printer had to contact another printer to help him out. Soon it was the ‘In’ thing to read.
Nick and Grace made a million from this one book. Nick quit his job as a sales clerk and they moved to the high rent district. The kids went to private schools and Grace shopped on Fifth Avenue.
Then one night, the serenity of a summer evening was broken by a holler. Grace jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Right below her, Nick was shouting “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Grace thought quickly. A book by Nathan Hale would sell even better than a book by Paul Revere. Night after night they toiled and in three weeks the book was done. This time they couldn’t find a publisher so they had to publish it themselves. They tied up all of their money in the book, thinking they would get it back. But this time the book bombed. Things got so bad that Nick had to take his old job back.
Now the lesson Nick and Grace learned is: If something works the first time, don’t expect it to work the second time.
Frank Galpin Class of 1976